Curtain Raiser

Guns, Hate Will Kill America, Colltalers

Would that be possible, America’s longest war will be canceled on Sept. 11 of all days? The president said it so, repeating what Obama and Trump had promised before. Will it happen? it should. Did it work? no, but now it’s done. What it did was what every conflict does: it killed people, lots of them.
Not that we don’t do plenty of that in the U.S. too; there have been new gun massacres we’ll do little or nothing about it. Just as we manage hunger: the media glows over billionaires but food banks are overwhelmed across the nation. Tomorrow is Pot Day, though, and Thursday, Earth Day, so light up.
Let’s begin our weekly world tour in Taiwan, which is nervous about the buildup of Chinese war vessels off its waters. After pulverizing Hong Kong’s drive for democracy, Beijing’s now eager to re-litigate an old imperialistic folly: to rule the democratic-run “Republic of China,” which lost control over the mainland in 1949. The military “drills” seem designed to rattle the pro-West nation, already shaken Sunday by two non-damaging earthquakes.
Questions abound in Russia as it builds up combat troops near Ukraine’s eastern border – the largest since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to The Guardian. After being publicly chastised by President Biden, who ordered more sanctions against his country, critics are unsure about Putin’s strategy at this time, since an invasion would not be cost-effective, and he may soon have another problem in his hands: Alexei Nalvany’s death.
But analysts such as Anatol Lieven, senior fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, also warn Ukrainians that “they may be a kind of partner of the U.S. but they’re not an ally.” In a DemocracyNow interview, he calls up the example of Georgia and how the U.S. did not, and will not again this time, engage in a war with Russia. And how Putin is unlikely to have plans to wage war with the U.S. over them either.
In France, Kobili Traoré beat Sarah Halimi, 65, before throwing her out the window of her Paris apartment in 2017 to cries of “Allahu akbar,” or god is great, and “I killed the devil.” Now, the country’s highest court has ruled that he cannot stand trial because he was under the influence of cannabis, of all things. Note: Traoré is a Muslim and Halimi, Jewish. Naturally, her community took it to the streets to protest and express anger about the ruling.
Back in the U.S., the president is still going forward with a $23-billion weapon sales to the United Arab Emirates, endorsing his predecessor’s decision. Given UAE’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, the decision to sell them more F-35s and armed drones can’t be more absurd. And tragic: don’t they know that U.S.-backed airstrikes are methodically exterminating the Yemeni people and sending the once proud nation back to the Stone Age?
It boils down to money, of course, or rather, the U.S. defense budget. For immediately after Biden’s announcement, the conversation turned into what to do with all those billions that have been poured year after year into Afghanistan? Can we use the average annual $45 billion for something else?
May we suggest eliminating hunger in America? It’s immoral that in the world’s richest country, 35 million people go hungry to bed every night, while a new billionaire is born every day. But you won’t hear a peep about it from the Pentagon, most elected officials, and maybe even the president himself. It’ll be up to the American people to step in and prevent the next U.S. defense budget to continue to be more than that of 10 other nations combined.
It’s fitting that Sept. 11 is mentioned along with the Afghan war because if you remember, that was the initial U.S. response to the terrorist attacks: to invade the country whose graveyards are full of ghosts of past invading empires which, like the U.S. and Soviet Union, could not bring it to its knees.
Even Osama bin Laden had already fled to Pakistan at that time, said an intel report that President George Bush did not care to read. Soon enough, with no signs of a plan, the administration got bored and embraced the real geopolitics it had prepared for the region: to invade Iraq and take charge of its oil industry. Problem is, they moved most troops out of Afghanistan but never took steps to officially end the hostilities. So the war raged for 20 years.
If the invasion of Iraq is even now still inadmissible, the Afghan conflict had absolutely no need to last this long. It did only due to militaristic gung-ho and an “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” in President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell words. So many lives lost should be worth at least our commitment to never repeat such criminal adventure, but unfortunately, we don’t live in that kind of world.
Deadly shootings in Indianapolis, Texas, and Wisconsin, once again proved that the America that sends people to kill people in distant lands also eases ways for people to kill people here too. Lots of them. This heartbreaking assumption is the one that pierces the soul of any American who refuses to endorse this state. But it matters little when food, water, housing, jobs, freedom, are unaffordable to most, while guns and lives are sadly very cheap.
The Universe is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old. Earth, 4.5 billion years. And human ancestors appeared first between five million and seven million years ago. But today, levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher than 3.6 million years ago, according to twin reports. In March, the level reached 417.14 parts per million, 50% higher than the average between 1750 and 1800, just before the Industrial Revolution.
Way to go, Earth Day on its 51st anniversary. For despite the sobering NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography studies, the day will focus on the relative – and “relative” is being generous here – progresses we’ve made, along with lots of marches, speeches, dancing, and singing. In that world that we don’t live in, the president would take that opportunity to commit full-heartedly to a Green New Deal. But as we said, this is a different place.
A place where super-crook Bernie Madoff “made off” with billions and spent only 13 years of his 82 in jail. He died there last week, but none of his partners or enablers will ever be identified, and most of the money never returned. At this point, those who got schemed may not even need it anymore. In fact, apart from 788 billionaires, most of the 331 million Americans can’t even understand how can anyone get so rich without having a real job.
We will never know either. We just know that that’s the money always missing from communities to stay safe, parents to raise kids, working people to stay healthy. That’s the funds that are never there for schools and their teachers, for regional hospitals and their dedicated essential workers, for low-cost housing and shelters to fight rampant homelessness. The money Madoff and his Wall Street friends make are what’s missing to rebuild this nation.
This is bound to be a different “420” for aficionados. Almost half of the U.S. states now allow the consumption of cannabis for personal enjoyment or medical purposes. Even Mexico caught on the fever and more places will surely join in. The crucial question, one that not even liberalization solves, is the role of the financial system for the new industry to grow. The root of criminality associated with drug consumption is linked to the money it raises.
So far, banks have remained moot about the issue, which is unfortunate. The only way that this multi-billion business will have a positive impact on the economy is if they can operate like any other business, without having to resort to training small armies to protect the physical transportation of cash.
Meanwhile, after you pay your dues and fulfill your duties today, it may be a treat to light one up and enjoy. Even jaded warriors need to dream, so dream on. WC

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